For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:24
It is ironic that two manila folders with labels “commitment” and “cohabitation” stand side-by-side in my filing cabinet, yet in relationships they are about as far from each other as day and night. Lacking in the relationship of those who live together apart from marriage is commitment, and without commitment there is hope neither for marriage nor for the future.
The grand experiment just hasn’t worked. It began in the ’60s following the emergence of the pill and was fostered by the Playboy philosophy that it’s OK to do anything you want with anyone else as long as you both agree. The extension of that philosophy in a practical way is living together, which appeals far more to men than to women.
In the early ’70s, Dr. Paul Popenoe, the father of modern marriage counseling, said, “No nation survives without it. The basic elements in marriage are matters of social survival. People who want to abolish marriage and family life want to abolish themselves” (Kit Snedaker, “The Marriage Go-Round,” L.A. Herald Examiner, magazine section, p. 4).
Yet here we are, a generation downstream, still trying to con ourselves into thinking you can make relationships work with neither commitment nor marriage. You don’t have to convince marriage researcher Scott Stanley of that premise. At a conference of marriage and relationship experts Stanley delivered another of many scathing denouncements of cohabitation, documenting that living together apart from starting at the marriage altar doesn’t work.
That line, “You never buy a pair of shoes without trying them on to see how they fit,” may well apply to your hiking boots, but not the one you marry.
Newspapers reported, “Women living unmarried with guys and expecting a lasting, committed marriage down the line had better review their options. His research finds that men who cohabitate with the women they eventually marry are less committed to the union than men who never lived with their spouses ahead of time. It’s the difference between the truly committed and the spirit of ‘maybe I am.’ His research has demonstrated that men who want ‘to test marriage out first’ are less committed to the institution in general and their partners specifically than men who move directly to marriage without cohabitating.” (Karen Peterson, “Cohabiting can make marriage an iffy proposition,” USA Today, July 8, 2002, D-1).
Furthermore, men who are dragged to the altar against their wills or marry only to keep their companion by their side never make good husbands. The divorce rate of those who live together before marriage continues to be higher than those who commit to a relationship in marriage without living together as a prelude to it.
This, of course, takes us full circle to what God said in the beginning that a man is to leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife in marriage. No matter how we ignore His direction or attempt to improve on it, God knew how humankind could best find happiness and fulfillment and what environment is needed for a child to grow securely. Only in marriage can these criteria be met.
The attitude of the world today stands in defiance of lasting commitment. In vogue is the mentality of “do your own thing” and “be your own person.” The attitude of “live with me, and if I like you a lot, I may someday marry you” is selfish, lustful, and debased.
That line, “You never buy a pair of shoes without trying them on to see how they fit,” may well apply to your hiking boots, but not the one you marry. The one you share your heart and bed with isn’t a piece of leather with a corrugated sole. She’s a person with sensitivity and emotions who wants to know you’ll be there next year and the year after that.
Researcher Stanley, the co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver, concluded his address saying, “If you want someone to marry, choose someone who won’t live with you!”
Resource reading: Genesis 2:18-25.